Greg Rebello knows better than to drown in all the pre-fight hype.
“It’s 15 minutes of your life. That’s it,” he said, casually dismissing the buzzwords typically reserved for fights of this magnitude.
“It’s a 15-minute fistfight. After that, we’ll be drinking beers at the bar.”
The second stint of Rebello’s comeback, which began only six months after the 32-year-old Providence native retired in June of 2013, has finally come to this, another national TV showcase and a heavyweight showdown with Massachusetts vet Tyler King on the main card of “CES MMA XXIX” Friday, June 12th, 2015 at Twin River Casino.
Few heavyweights in this region have been this good for this long. A former college and pro football player, the 35-year-old King is 9-2 after beating Mike Mucitelli on short notice in March, also on AXS TV, while Rebello ran his record to 17-6 following a win over J.A. Dudley in October. With both fighters having trained with one another through the years, developing a friendship while each climbing the ladder at their own pace, they figured this day would come.
“It was only a matter of time,” Rebello said. “Someone will go to the top and someone will go back into the mix. I want to go higher up that ladder, and in order to do so I have to fight guys like this. I’m cool with that.”
“I have tremendous respect for Greg,” added King, “but this is business. It’s a job. It’s what we get paid to do. I’m trying to take his head off and he’s trying to take my head off. It is what it is. We both love to do this.
“If I didn’t come in and try to take his head off, it’d be disrespectful to him.”
Rebello (17-6, 9 KOs) has experience and a killer Muay Thai repertoire on his side. The brutality of the head kick he administered on Cody Lightfoot in 2011 remains entrenched in the memories of New England fans. Some would swear the bloodstains on the canvas haven’t faded either, perhaps a warning for anyone who dares to get within striking distance.
“He’s a junkyard dog, a real tough prick,” King said. “It won’t be easy to put away a guy like that.”
King is more of a wrestler than a striker, a hulking, 6-foot-5, 223-pound former lineman who would stand to benefit from keeping his opponent on the canvas, thereby neutralizing Rebello’s ability to end the fight with one blow.
As he contemplates his strategy, remaining focused on the task at hand rather than what lies ahead, Rebello admits his chief concern Friday is “not getting laid on.” Though not aesthetically pleasing, the “lay and pray” approach worked swimmingly for Mike Stewart and Lewis Rumsey, each of whom mauled Rebello when faced with the task of defending a prestigious Muay Thai striker.
Those fights left Rebello at a crossroads, physically and emotionally drained from raising his infant daughter and not being able to put all his efforts into training. With his daughter approaching her third birthday, Rebello can finally balance fighting and fatherhood. This, he says, is the best he’s felt in years.
“I’ve trained more for this fight than I have for any other camp over the past three years,” he said. “Life’s gotten a lot easier. Now my daughter comes to the gym with me and jumps in the ring. She loves it.
“I’m in unbelievable shape,” he continued. “I don’t get injured. My body doesn’t have the wear and tear of someone in their mid-20s. I’ve never been hurt. I’ve never torn an ACL. I train smart. I’ve cut my sparring days in half. I do a lot more technique work and working on my standup. One day a week, we go at it, then the rest is all technical stuff. I recover a lot faster. I train hard, but I train smart, too.”
This may be “just another fight,” as King put it, but the muddled chain of command in New England’s heavyweight division rests on the outcome of Friday’s long-awaited showdown. Two friends sharing the spotlight, and perhaps a post-fight beverage when all is said and done, makes for must-see TV.
“I’ve never had an easy fight, and this goes along with that theme,” King said. “I feel awesome. I’m coming into this fight feeling amazing.
“Greg has set a standard in New England for a long time. I’m aware of that. But everyone I face is just an opponent in my way. I need to be aware of what he does and what he’s capable of.”
Tickets for “CES MMA XXIX” are priced at $40.00, $55.00, $100.00 and $125.00 and available for purchase online at www.cesmma.com or www.twinriver.com, by phone at 401-724-2253/2254 or at the Twin River Players Club. All fights and fighters are subject to change.
“CES MMA XXIX” features 11 bouts, including the return of reigning CES MMA welterweight champion Chuck O’Neil (15-6, 5 KOs) of Bourne, Mass., who defends his title in the main event against Dominique Steele (12-5, 3 KOs) of Cincinnati, Ohio.
Also on the main card, East Providence, R.I., middleweight Nate Andrews (6-1, 3 KOs) returns to face Jay Bakanowski (3-1, 2 KOs) of Northborough, Mass.; bantamweight Dinis Paiva Jr. (6-5, 4 KOs) of East Providence battles Brazilian Bruno Marques (7-5-1, 5KOs); and unbeaten Providence welterweight Eric Spicely (6-0, 2 KOs) faces New York’s Harley Beekman (7-2, 4 KOs).
The preliminary card includes a three-round welterweight bout Abe Pitrowski (6-2, 1 KO) of Pawtucket, R.I., and Mike Rodriguez (2-0) of Boston and a hard-hitting featherweight battle between Joe Pingitore (4-2, 1 KO) of Johnston, R.I., and James Murrin (3-2, 2 KOs) of Dorchester, Mass. Featherweight Evan Parker (4-3, 1 KO) of Worcester, Mass., faces Pete Rogers Jr. (2-1, 2 KOs) of Norwich, Conn.; welterweight Toby Oden (1-1) of Milford, Mass.; battles Wayne Alhquist (1-1, 1 KO) of Meredith, N.H.; Woonsocket, R.I., bantamweight Kody Nordby (3-3) faces Jesse Gutierrez (1-0) of Norwood; and Andy Aiello (5-1, 3 KOs) of Bridgewater, Mass., battles Devin Pilkington (0-2) of Smithfield, R.I.
For more information on “CES MMA XXIX” visit www.cesmma.com, follow @CESMMA on Twitter and Instagram and “like” the official CES MMA Facebook fan page.